The 2021 Survivors’ Pension rates saw a 1.6% increase based on the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) increase that was announced by the Social Security Administration. To calculate the Survivors’ Pension rate increase the average of the indices of July, August, and September 2020 was compared with the 2019 3rd quarter average. 2021 Survivors’ Pension rates are effective 12/1/2020.
2021 Survivors’ Pension Details
Effective Date: 12/01/2020
First Paycheck: 12/31/2020
Veterans Pension Increase Factor: 1.3%
Net Worth/Income Limit: $130,773
Standard Medicare Deduction: Actual amount will be determined by SSA based on individual income.
Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR): MAPR is based on how many dependents you have, if you’re married to another Veteran who qualifies for a pension, and if your disabilities qualify you for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits. MAPRs are adjusted each year for cost-of-living increases.
Find your current MAPR amount using the tables below.
2021 Survivors Pension Rate Tables
For qualified surviving spouses with at least 1 dependent:
|If you have 1 dependent child and||Your MAPR amount is:|
|You dont qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits||$12,229|
|You qualify for Housebound benefits||$14,300|
|You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits||$17,815|
|You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits and youre the surviving spouse of a Veteran who served in the Spanish-American War (SAW)||$18,365|
- The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)/Minimum Income Annuity (MIW) limitation is $9,344.
- If you have more than 1 child, add $2,382 to your MAPR amount for each additional child.
- If you have a child who works, you may exclude their wages up to $12,550.
- If you have medical expenses, you may deduct only the amount that’s above 5% of your MAPR amount ($611 for a surviving spouse with 1 dependent).
For qualified surviving spouses with no dependents:
|If you have no dependents and||Your MAPR amount is:|
|You dont qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits||$9,344|
|You qualify for Housebound benefits||$11,420|
|You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits||$14,934|
|You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits and youre the surviving spouse of a Veteran who served in the Spanish-American War (SAW)||$15,539|
- The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)/Minimum Income Annuity (MIW) limitation is $9,344.
- If you have medical expenses, you may deduct only the amount that’s above 5% of your MAPR amount ($467 for a surviving spouse with no dependent child).
For qualified surviving children:
|If youre||Your MAPR amount is:|
|A qualified surviving child||$2,382|
About VA Survivors’ Pension
The VA Survivors’ Pension, previously called the VA Death Pension, is offered to qualifying surviving dependents of military members with qualifying wartime service. Who qualifies for this pension?
Unremarried surviving spouses may be eligible if the veteran did not have a dishonorable discharge and at least one of the following applies according to the VA official site:
- Began active duty on or before September 7, 1980, and served at least 90 days on active military service, with at least 1 day during a covered wartime period;
- Began active duty after September 7, 1980, and served at least 24 months or the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty (with some exceptions), with at least 1 day during a covered wartime period;
- Served as an officer on active duty after October 16, 1981, and hadn’t previously served on active duty for at least 24 months.
Surviving dependent children may also apply; the VA official site says these dependents may qualify for a VA Survivor’s Pension if “you’re unmarried and you meet at least one of the requirements” in the list below:
- You’re under age 18, or
- You’re under age 23 and attending a VA-approved school, or
- You’re unable to care for yourself due to a disability that happened before age 18.”
How Survivors’ Pensions Are Calculated
If you qualify for a VA Survivors’ Pension, your pension payments are based ”…on the difference between your countable income and the Maximum Annual Pension Rate, or MAPR.
Your countable income is defined by the VA as “how much you earn, including your salary, investment and retirement payments, and any income you may have from your dependents”. Some expenses can reduce your non-countable income.
These include non-reimbursable medical expenses not covered by your insurance provider and educational expenses.
Your MAPR is basically the maximum amount of pension payable to a Veteran, surviving spouse, or child. MAPR calculations are based on how many dependents you have. Another factor included in the calculations? Whether you qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits. MAPRs are adjusted each year for cost-of-living increases.
Net Worth Limits
This VA benefit is subject to net worth caps. In 2021 the limit on net worth to qualify for a Survivors’ Pension is $130,773 (see below). Net worth includes both assets and annual income and all applicants must report this information. Some assets are not included in the calculation. The VA official site says those include:
- A primary residence.
- Your car.
- Basic home items such as appliances or other items you would leave behind if you move to a new home.
VA rules state that in cases where a child’s net worth is more than the net worth limit, “we don’t consider them to be a dependent when we determine your pension”.
One important feature to be aware of; when reviewing an application for VA pensions, the VA reviews “the terms and conditions of any assets the survivor may have transferred” in the three years leading up to the claim.
This may or may not affect the net worth and income calculations depending on circumstances. Why is this important? Because of a potential penalty period associated with this type of review.
A penalty period is “a length of time when a survivor isn’t eligible for pension benefits,” because there was a transfer of assets “for less than fair market value during the look-back period”. The VA says this may apply in cases where the transferred assets “would’ve caused the survivor’s net worth to be over the limit”. The VA advises that “not every asset transfer” is subject to this sort of penalty.
What happens if the VA determines a penalty period is necessary? “If we determine you’re subject to a pension penalty, we wouldn’t pay pension benefits during the penalty period.”
How to Apply for Survivors’ Pension with VA Form 21-534EZ
Glossary of Terms
- A & A – Aid & Attendance – A&A is a benefit paid in addition to monthly pension.Require the aid of another person to perform activities of daily living OR be blind or meet other specific visual acuity requirements OR be a patient in a nursing home because of physical and/or mental incapacity.
- Child Earned Income Exclusion – Excluded earnings amount from a dependent child.
- Countable Income – Includes income from most sources as well as from any eligible dependents. It generally includes earnings, disability and retirement payments, interest and dividend payments from annuities, and net income from farming or a business. Some expenses, such as unreimbursed medical expenses, may reduce countable income.
- Death Pension – Intended to supplement the income of a surviving spouse or child who is in need of financial assistance and provide a minimum level of financial security.
- Housebound – Qualifications: Single disability rated 100% and separate disabilities rated 60% or more (Veterans only) OR Permanently housebound due to disabilities per 38 CFR 3.351(d) OR Hartness v Nicholson (2006) when pension has been granted based on the veteran being age 65 or older.
- MAPR – Maximum Annual Pension Rate – The MAPR is the maximum amount of pension payable to a veteran, surviving spouse or child. MAPR fluctuates based on individual circumstances related to number of dependents and if Housebound or Aid & Attendance qualifications. The MAPR is reduced for each dollar of income that the veteran, surviving spouse, child, or their families have.
- MBW – Mexican Border War
- MIW – Minimum Income Annuity
- Net Worth – Net worth is the total of your or your beneficiary’s assets and annual income. Includes assets such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, and any property other than your residence and a reasonable lot area. The VA will determine whether assets are of a sufficiently large amount that one could live off of them for a reasonable period of time. Net worth limit will increase by the same percentage as Social Security cost-of-living increases.
- Penalty Period – A penalty period is a length of time when a survivor isn’t eligible for pension benefits, because they transferred assets for less than fair market value during the look-back period. This may apply if those transferred assets would’ve caused the survivor’s net worth to be over the limit mentioned above. However, not every asset transfer is subject to this penalty.
- Veterans Pension – Tax-free monetary benefit payable to low-income wartime Veterans.
- SAW – Spanish-American War
- SBP – Survivor Benefit Plan
- SS – Veterans Surviving Spouse
- Survivors’ Pension – Tax-free monetary benefit payable to a low-income, un-remarried surviving spouse and/or unmarried child(ren) of a deceased Veteran with wartime service.
|Gold Star Spouses Day||Survivors’ & Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program|
|Gold Star Mother’s Day||Survivors’ & Dependents’ Educational Assistance Rates|
|VA Benefits for Spouses and Dependents||Military Spouse Education Benefits|